Stuffed grape leaves are one of the oldest recipes still popular today, originating thousands of years ago in the Fertile Crescent. Each Jewish community around the Middle East has its own variation on these hand-held treats, whether Greek, Iraqi, or Persian. But my absolute favorite version is one I tasted in Jerusalem, in the Armenian Quarter just down the road from David’s Tower inside the entrance to the Old City.
The Armenian Christian community dates back to the fourth century CE. By the early 20th century, thousands of Armenians were living in Palestine, with the majority in Jerusalem, many coming as tile-makers to decorate the city’s mosques. Today the number of Armenians in the Old City has dwindled to a few hundred.
Armenians, like Jews, have been merchants for centuries and thus learned about new food innovations before the rest of the population in the places where they lived. It shows in this recipe: The flavor-packed mixture of sautéed onions, rice, currants, dill, spices like cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom, and lots of lemon makes this recipe for stuffed grape leaves better than any other. A good recipe like this travels beyond borders.
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